It was the day of Djokovic sightings, Weakest Dink showcasing, Jon Lovitz visiting, and Mardy Fish winning. I was sitting on a bench in the courtyard area of the Los Angeles Tennis Center, a doubles match was playing on Stadium Court, I was looking at my notes, camera tucked away in my camera bag. Two men in tennis gear were slowly walking right past me towards the SCTA office. One of them was Novak Djokovic, with a racquet bag over his shoulder. Before I was able to get my camera ready they were already descending down the stairs to the offices, where they have a player lounge and a check-in desk. Bummer.
All sorts of thoughts went through my head. Is he doing an exhibition? Can’t be a late entry to the tournament. Why is he in tennis gear? I later found out that Djokovic was looking for a court to hit at with a hitting partner and was able to get one at the UCLA Sycamore courts, right where we saw the qualifiers on the weekend. Why Djokovic was in town is, of course, a big mystery to me and many others. One thing I can tell you all: He looked awesome. Lean, fit, beaming with energy, smiling at everyone he encountered.
Alex Bogomolov Jr. press conference
Hard to understand that Bogomolov had troubles playing qualifier Greg Jones in the first round, but took care of the tall Bulgarian Dimitrov in two quick sets 6-4, 6-3. But you can not be surprised by the former Russian – now American 28 year old. After all, he also took care of Andy Murray 6-1, 7-5 in the second round of the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami.
His first comment to the press: “So far, so good. I’m feeling really good out there and every match goes a little better for me.” Asked about his strategy against Dimitrov he explained “I was planning to go high to his back hand to take immediate control of the point, and it worked.” Bogomolov indicated that his confidence is way up and that all his hard work is paying off this year, partly also because of all the support from his team and his family. He loves the environment in Los Angeles and enjoys playing here.
Next match for Bogomolov: Leftie Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil, who disposed of Alejandro Falla of Colombia 6-0, 6-1 today.
The Weakest Dink finals
Jeff Richards waited for a long time to get a larger platform for his creation, The Weakest Dink. We’ve talked about it in March, planned for it for weeks, did a June test run at his Club, the Calabasas Tennis and Swim Center, had challengers played at various clubs afterwards. And today was the day for him at the Farmers Classic. When he saw the large crowd gathering around the practice court, he knew it was going to be a success today.
Crowds started to pay attention when they heard the music over the loudspeakers and saw the commotion on the court. Richards had set up the equipment and trophies, two ball feeders (Jeff Christiansen from Braemar Country Club and Joe Prado from the Calabasas Tennis and Swim Center), and an umpire. The contestants were
Lewis Anten (El Caballero Country Club)
Magic Lewis (LA Tennis Ladder)
Annie Mitchell (Braemar Country Club)
Joanie Carlsen (Calabasas Tennis and Swim Center)
Alysia Hudson (Spanish Hills Country Club)
Linda Beisswanger (Hidden Hills Country Club)
The 30 minute game is a combination of clinic-style, fast-paced court action, rocking and hip music, and funny MC announcements with play-by-play. The objective of the players involved is to hit balls fed by a pro into a target area. After each round one or more players are being voted off the court by their peers, until only one player is left over.
Thanks to Richard’s quick witted comments and running of the very entertaining show, spectators were cheering on the contestants, and the excitement grew with every player voted off the court. In the end it was Annie Mitchell and Joanie Carlsen doing a drop-shot drill to determine the winner. And The Weakest Dink Champion is: Joanie Carlsen of Calabasas. The winner left with a trophy and a fantastic racquet/bag prize from HEAD/Penn, and the spectators left knowing they saw a nice, new, entertaining game, Southern California’s tennis answer to American Idol!
Match Fish – Muller
Fish wins 7-6, 6-1
With the audience definitely on his side, Mardy Fish started real slow and was down a break very quickly. Concentration seemed to be less than 100% and it just looked like he didn’t bring his A-game that night. After one more sloppy error in the middle of the first set we heard one spectator shout: “Come on, Mardy, footwork!” Fish started waking up towards the end of the first set, serving at 5-6. In rapid succession he produced a superb, unreachable drop shot, followed by an ace, another drop shot, and another ace. 6-6 tiebreaker.
Now Muller sort of dipped in the confidence area and started to make some errors, and at the same time Fish continued with big serves and more concentrated, focused tennis. He quickly won the tiebreaker and the first set. The second set pretty much continued like the first set ended and the match was won by Fish with much more ease than the first set had promised.
Mardy Fish press conference “Winning is contagious!”
A very relaxed Mardy Fish faced the press after his win against Gilles Muller from Luxembourg. He admitted that Muller’s serve gave him problems in the first set, and he had to work on equalizing his opponent’s big weapon. Which he did, of course (see above).
Fish talked about the conditions here in Los Angeles that are so different than last week in Atlanta (the tournament which he won for the second time in a row). It was hot and sticky in Atlanta and here it is rather chilly during the night matches. Fish likes his chances playing Kunitsyn Friday during daytime because the warmer temperatures at 4 pm make the balls “move through the court much better, quicker.”
He added, “This is as good as I’ve ever felt in the middle of a year. In fact, I feel great after losing 30 pounds and working so much on my fitness.” Being the top American player is a new experience for him and he declares he wants to stay in the top 10 for a while. He feels good enough to win in LA, his new home town, this year.
Asked why he calls LA his new hometown, he explained that his wife’s family lives in the LA area, which made them buy a house in Beverly Hills. So “it would be very special for me to win here. Even just doing well in LA would be nice.”
Talking about his Friday opponent, Igor Kunitsyn, Fish admits he is a tough player to face. “He plays lots of balls and is hard to figure out.” But he also says he’s ready because “to be a top player you have to be very consistent and mentally tough week after week after week.” Fish adds, “winning is contagious, it’s like a drug, you get addicted.”
Before the statsI want to give a quick shout out to our friend Horacio Tamborini, owner of the Flint Canyon Tennis Club in La Canada. Horacio, who was once called America’s biggest Tennis Nut by Tennis Magazine, has experienced some difficult health problems lately and, despite recovering after surgery, has made it to the tournament like every year. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Horacio. Get better soon!
RESULTS – THURSDAY, JULY 28, 2011
Singles – Second Round
 Mardy Fish (USA) d Gilles Muller (LUX) 76 (1) 61
 Thomaz Bullucci (BRA) d Alejandro Falla (COL) 60 61
 Igor Kunitsyn (RUS) d Ryan Sweeting (USA) 76 (4) 76 (6)
Alex Bogomolov Jr. (USA) d Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) 64 63
Doubles – Quarterfinals
 Mark Knowles (BAH) / Xavier Malisse (BEL) d Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) / Alejandro Falla (COL) 63 62
Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) / Frank Moser (GER) d Michael Berrer (GER) / Tommy Haas (GER) 64 64
ORDER OF PLAY – FRIDAY, JULY 27, 2011
STRAUS STADIUM start Noon
Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) vs [SE] Ryan Harrison (USA) live on Tennis Channel
 Jonathan Erlich (ISR) / Andy Ram (ISR) vs Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) / Michael Russell (USA)
 Mardy Fish (USA) vs  Igor Kunitsyn (RUS) live on ESPN2
Not Before 7:30 PM
Ernests Gulbis (LAT) vs  Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) live on ESPN3
Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) / Alejandro Falla (COL) vs  Mark Knowles (BAH) / Xavier Malisse (BEL)
GRANDSTAND start 4:00 pm
Alex Bogomolov, Jr. (USA) vs  Thomaz Bellucci (BRA)
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